With Messers Tevez and Riquelme suspended, and Sergio Agüero injured, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi will be the only one of Argentina’s ‘fantastic four’ (the phrase is Olé‘s and not, I would like to impress upon you, my own) who will feature against Chile in Santiago on Wednesday night. Agüero, who only picked up a minor knock against Uruguay, has to play for Atlético de Madrid against city rivals Real Madrid on Sunday, and mindful of not irritating his club too much the AFA aren’t taking him to Chile. In his place, another local boy has been called up – Lanús striker José Sand.
Sand’s form for Lanús in the last couple of seasons – including ten goals so far in the current campaign – has been recognised by Alfio Basile and Pepe joins five other home-based players in the squad to fly to Santiago on Tuesday morning. It’s Sand’s first call-up to the national side and he was overjoyed. ‘I’m very content, happy,’ he told the press. ‘I’m going to train and hope… hopefully the experience can help me to keep on improving my game.’
After crossing the Andes, they’ll take on a former boss, Marcelo Bielsa, who Basile seems at present to be setting himself up against – with no return of the rivalry from Bielsa’s side. The recent eleven month winless streak, ended with the victory over Uruguay on Saturday, has chipped away a lot of the good will towards Basile from the Argentine press, and his rigid system seems at odds with Bielsa’s somewhat more flexible approach to trusting his players.
Captain Javier Zanetti, who played under Bielsa as well as Basile, told the press on Monday; ‘I’ve got a lot of respect for [Bielsa]. What he’s done with Chile is very impressive, but for now we’re adversaries, and I hope to give my best to help us win.’ Esteban Cambiasso, meanwhile, spelled out expectations for anyone unfamiliar with the style of Chile’s young team: ‘Marcelo’s teams always try and play with a good, high tempo rhythm and a lot of precision. They look to keep possession, and make their opponents do the running.’ It’s funny, really – despite the differences Basile perceives between him and the other manager, what Cambiasso’s done there is describe Argentina at their best under any manager.